Demanding lifestyles, driven in the main by increased prosperity and greater consumer choice are creating a 24-7 food for fuel culture.
Our eating habits continue to change and skipping traditional meals has become more commonplace worldwide as we juggle work, looking after our families, household chores and leisure activities with many investing less time in formal meal occasions and the associated time of shopping and prepping.
Almost 1 in 2 consumers globally say they often replace meals with a quick bite on the go.
In a recent survey, 6 in 10 European consumers stated that post-COVID, they intend to take active steps to make their nutrition healthier, and this presents an opportunity for nutritionally dense foods created using high-quality ingredients with optimised nutritional value which can provide a hybrid, between meals solution.
Consumers are looking for hybrid products between meals.
The number one reason for snacking not surprisingly, is hunger. Individuals want a quick and easy way to satisfy their hunger, either in between or indeed instead of conventional meals.
Apart from hunger, individuals use snacks to relax or unwind and increasingly as a reaction to stress.
Almost half of European consumers (46%) claim their snack intake has increased in the new normal compared to previous years. Why is this? Mood food!
Consumers seek comfort food in challenging times and are more tempted to grab food as a way of satisfying this need. These changed eating patterns are here to stay, as most consumers say they plan to continue eating smaller meals as opposed to the traditional meals.
But conversely, with a heightened awareness around health, many wish there were healthier options in impulse food and drinks.
Breakfast or mid-morning break.
The morning is the time when people are looking for an energy supply to get them off to a good start, but 34% of consumers worldwide regularly don’t eat breakfast.
Instead, these consumers state that they look for products that give a boost to their energy levels preferring a grab a snack-on-the go as they get ready for their day.
But this audience, now more than ever, expects substitute breakfast products to provide good nutrition as a healthy start to set the tone for the rest of the day.
And with many not taking a lunch break during their busy day, snacking has become embedded in our daily lives.
Grazing for fulfilment and energy.
So how do we maintain our health and fitness with our 24/7 food for fuel culture?
When chosen carefully, small bites throughout the day can replace the nutritional value of conventional meals. 50% of consumers globally believe eating several healthy snacks is as good as eating three main meals. And there is a body of medical research that indicates eating small and often can help individuals lose or maintain weight.
Consumers are therefore increasingly looking for products with healthy, nutritional components which can also provide an energy boost at various times of the day – and just over half of Europeans are seeking out products offering a gentle energy boost but without the negative side effect of high sugar levels or excessive stimulants, including caffeine.
So products with claims such as ‘slow release energy’ are very likely to increase in popularity as GI (Glycemic Index) becomes more widespread as a point of product differentiation and commonly understood.
Lunch means different things to different people.
Whether it’s a lunchbox for school or work, consumers worldwide increasingly want easy but healthy lunch options with bring-from-home solutions comprising of foods that facilitate small bites throughout the day.
And with breaks often too short, consumers are looking for solutions that provide health benefits combined with speed and convenience and indeed 54% of UK adults in full time work take less than 30 minutes for their lunch.
Guilt-free afternoon munching – is it possible?
Whereas individuals used to eat three meals a day and a snack was seen as a treat, new eating habits see consumers planning snacks as an nutritious energy source.
But there is still significant guilt associated with constant snacking and this provides an excellent opportunity for the food industry to offer a wide variety of healthier options such as indulgent afternoon treats (for on-the-go or at home) with functional ingredients as well as products with a high protein focus rather than high carb.
Home cooking on the increase.
45% of Europeans have cooked more since the unofficial end of the pandemic outbreak in December 2022.
With individuals unable to visit their favourite eateries during lockdown, many used the pandemic period to improve their home cooking skills, and here too, we have seen a focus on better nutrition and higher quality of ingredients.
So overall, there is a clear pattern in the changes in our 24-7 food culture. Irrespective of the eating occasion, we are significantly more health aware than we were before the pandemic and it seems that a increased desire and demand for healthy and nutritious foods are here to stay.